Genie In A Bottle? A Perspective On Diet Pills

Hey girls! Are you feeling (gasp) FAT? Maybe you’re five figures over the perfect poundage to fit into your best Ass Jeans? Maybe you’re reeling because you saw a couple of unflattering pics go up on Facebook and you’ve made an executive decision to better your “skinny arm pose” by, er, getting skinnier arms? But you like food and you don’t like exercise, but you want to get rid of a bit of the excess flab, huh? That’s where diet pills come in, girlfriend! With a daily dose of this new miracle drug you found on the counter at CVS, you’ll pop out a rockin’ bod in no time!

… Right?

No, ladies. Absolutely not.

Hi, girls. My name is Amy Longworth. I am a fitness writer, not a doctor. I have no certificate to flutter around in your face to prove I know anything about nutrition. The letters after my name are “BA” (for my irrelevant English degree). But I promise you that the only letters that are relevant to diet pills are B and S.

Dieting discourse makes me feel rather nauseated, if I’m honest. For once, I think it’s time to talk about diet pills from a POV that isn’t littered with numbers proving that X means “summer bodaaay,” every sentence punctuated with an exclamation point to emphasise the fact that this product is just, like, totally awesome. No, I’m just here to give you a bit of cold, clean advice from experience and good old fashioned common sense. I want to break the myth that has been carefully constructed by advertising companies (not science) to make you believe that faster, more effective weight loss is only possible if you’re popping pills.

There are hundreds of different diet pills on the market. Many claim to suppress your appetite and prevent your body from absorbing fat during digestive processes and, quite honestly, I do think there is some truth to some of them. For example, if you took a pair of identical twins who weighed the same and followed precisely the same diet and exercise regimen, putting one on a fat burning pill and leaving one to chug along the natural way, the chances are—depending on the product—that our pill-poppin’ twin would win the Weight Watchers title that week.

So I’m not saying diet pills are out-and-out scams; they can certainly help to aid weight loss (again, some more effectively than others). Whilst they are not miracle pills, if you use them along with a healthy diet and exercise, then as a supplement they can be effective. But I’m still not convinced that they are worth it—and here, my dears, is why.

There are all sorts of diet pills you can buy over the counter at drug stores and in supermarkets— non-prescription pills that promise miraculous weight loss. You open up the brightly coloured packet and find a couple of nondescript sleeves containing little pills. They come with a leaflet crammed with tiny print with a here-and-there comment about nausea and light-headedness and shaking… but oh my, look at what these models are saying about how much weight they lost—you’ll be slim again in no time! So you down a couple at breakfast, lunch and dinner with the hope that in two weeks’ time you’ll have a stomach like Halle Berry. And you continue eating junk food, feeling content in the knowledge that the pills are doing half the work for you.

Most fat-burners that you find on the shelves of supermarkets are just super-strength stimulants that charge up your metabolism, in a sense, by raising your body’s core temperature and heart rate. While many will advertise “exciting” new ingredients like the very holistic sounding White Willow Bark and Kola Nut, or the more hardcore “sciencey” sounding stuff like Chromium and HCA, the only ingredients you really need to look for are caffeine, green tea and guarana. With these stimulant-based pills, you’d be lucky if you made it two weeks without feeling some pretty diabolical side effects. All the warnings in the teeny-tiny writing were true, y’know. One young woman confided in her experience with SlimQuick to me, saying they “made me super sick … I’d be in this weird shaky haze all day.” Even if you’re not sensitive to stimulants, the excessive dosages can induce headaches, dizziness and nausea—I know I’m sounding like the small-print here, but it’s true. And it’s not very nice at all.

Many of these pills will come with detailed instructions about how to “supplement” the program with a certain diet and exercise—basically, you’re paying $30 a time to buy a leaflet that costs less than a couple of cents to print with information that you could have just found on the Internet. SlimQuick claims that women who used their product lost weight “three times quicker” than women who followed the same diet plan. But ultimately, all the women must still have lost the weight, and I guarantee you that the women who lost weight slower, without the aid of fat burners, stand a much higher chance of keeping the weight off.

I guess it’s time for me to relate, here. I’ve tried many a diet pill. Yes, I tried SlimQuick and found that I lost weight just as rapidly as I would have had I saved myself the dollah and just bought some salad leaves instead. I’ve taken pills with laxative effects, finding that they simply made me lose fluid and feel hungrier (i.e. more likely to binge). But I’ve also forayed into pills that you can’t buy on the shelf of Rite Aid among the herbal teas and the Epsom salts. A “friend” of mine (who sold illegal steroids) gave me some Clenbuterol, promising that he used it a few weeks prior to bodybuilding competitions to melt away the fat and get him into competition shape. All I knew was that it was “guaranteed” to speed up my metabolism and burn away all the nasty excess fatty stuff. I took the Clen for about four days before realising that it just wasn’t worth it. The side effects were immediate and evil. I shook so badly I couldn’t hold a pen in my hand. I felt hot and nauseated, as if I were coming down with a fever. I couldn’t focus my attention on anything. And I think those side effects were on the milder scale of the wrath that Clenbuterol can have.

After a few days, I gave up. I had lost no more weight than I would have done if I’d just had the willpower to stick to a healthy eating regimen. I could write and think again, and it felt wonderful. To think that people are willing to make themselves ill in the name of weight loss is just absurd to me now (and I say this as a woman who is still recovering from an eating disorder). Whatever properties Clen (or a “milder” fat burner) might have, I am not convinced that it’s quite literally ‘worth the headache.’

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Because here’s the great secret, ladies: it’s diet and exercise. That’s it! We’re not all designed to be waif-like Kates or curvy Karens (or whatever your desired body type may be, as stipulated by the average waistline of a year’s worth of Vogue cover girls). But to reach your personal weight goals, taking into account your height and frame size, you’ve just gotta live a healthy life and—though it may be tough—choose salads over super-sized sandwiches and say “no” to dessert here and there. You’ve got to get moving and push your body out of its comfort zone. Pills might make you poop out a few extra carbs or raise your body temperature so you burn a few more calories, but the risks involved just aren’t worth the hassle.

Ultimately, the so-called miracle cure ain’t gunna solve the problem. Weight loss isn’t about potions and pills; it’s about sacrifice and sweat. It doesn’t matter if I’m a doctor or not; my point isn’t that there’s no truth behind fat burners, but rather that you can achieve the same results without them.

Furthermore, darlings, it’s about realising that reaching your ideal weight isn’t going to make you more or less gorgeous because “gorgeous” is irrelevant to your BMI and your waist-to-hip ratio. It’s about how comfortable you feel in your own skin, and whether you feel good by cutting carbs or letting yourself eat the damn cake, then go right ahead. Your body, your rules—that’s the rule.

If you want to change your body, then be prepared for a bit of grafting, girl. You’ll get there in the end, and you’ll deserve the feeling you get when you walk—heck, sashay—around town in those sweet, sweet Ass Jeans again. When it comes to weight loss, willpower is the only answer, and that is something that no doctor can whip into a pill and put into a bottle. True story.

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What are your experiences with diet pills, darlings? Tweet us @litdarling.

View Comment (1)
  • Great article – right up my alley :). Not only are some of these pills ineffective and bordering on dangerous – but thanks to the U.S. supplement laws, you never know if what’s on the package is what you’re actually getting. And then there was ephedra and the giant mess that made… The diet pills like Alli “work,” but only because they cause fat malabsorption – i.e. you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the toilet. And don’t even get me started on that shit that Dr. Oz promotes…
    So yep – diet and exercise are the way to go. Which nobody really wants to hear, but it eventually all comes down to that. Thanks for getting the message out there!

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